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Family, classmates honor New Mexico school shooting victim

December 16, 2017

Michelle and daughter Monica Valencia hold signs and stand with other supporters along Pinon Hills Road in Farmington, N.M., as the funeral procession for Francisco "Paco" Fernandez passes by on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. Fernandez was killed when when a gunman opened fire inside Aztec High School on Dec. 7. (Jim Thompson/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered Friday to celebrate the life of a 17-year-old boy killed in a shooting rampage earlier this month at a New Mexico high school in the small northern city of Aztec.

Family, friends and dozens of fellow classmates showed up to Pinon Hills Community Church in Farmington to remember Francisco “Paco” Fernandez.

He and Casey Jordan Marquez, also 17, were killed Dec. 7 when a gunman disguised as a student opened fire inside Aztec High School shortly after first period began. Authorities say 21-year-old William Atchison had planned the attack but that the two victims were not specifically targeted.

Investigators said it’s likely more lives could have been lost if Fernandez had not walked into the bathroom where the gunman was hunkered down. The gunman shot Fernandez, then walked out into the hallway and encountered Marquez. He immediately killed her.

With some calling him a hero, Fernandez’s family remembered him as a teenager who loved sports, video games and hanging out with relatives and friends.

A path leading up to the church was lined with 50 motorcycles. After the private service, a procession of lowriders and classic cars transported the family to the cemetery. Fernandez was a fan of specialty cars and lowriders, according to his family.

About 100 people also lined the streets to glimpse the caravan and hold signs praising Fernandez. Many were dressed in orange and black, the colors of Aztec High School.

Sharon Schupla, of Farmington, said she got up early and made sure to come out with her family. She has a son who attended Aztec High.

“We’ve always been very close to everybody in the area,” Schupla told the Albuquerque Journal. “We’re all going to have to stick together.”

A memorial service for the second victim, Marquez, is scheduled for Sunday.

School officials plan to transform a space damaged by the shooting into an open-learning commons area and dedicate it to the victims.

Students are scheduled to return to school Monday. They’ll start off the day with a special assembly before heading to class.

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